Saberscouting — the best new baseball blog out there — weighs in on the Phil Hughes velocity debate with a stellar piece dissecting Hughes’ mechanics. Frankie Piliere’s final words are worth noting:
So, what’s my point in this article? A. Too much is being made of other supposed issues in his mechanics prior to his follow through. I hope I was able to ease some Yankee fans fears that there really is no other changes up this point in his delivery. The change I did touch on however, I do think could be a direct cause of his lessened velocity since over the past year. Is it because of the hamstring injury? I can’t say for sure either way, but considering much of my focus in this article has been on that front leg in question, it is certainly possible.
But, the bottom line is right now is that from what I can see, Hughes is pushing against that front leg and not driving over and through it. Hence, the reason for the less aggressive looking follow through with his leg that I pointed out above. The problem is not arm speed, nor is it arm angle or the way his hands are breaking, at least from what I can tell. Through 75% of his delivery, essentially nothing has changed. The leg lift and follow through certainly appear different, though…
So, what to do? I’d say the first step would be taking some pressure off of that right shoulder. And, to do that, Hughes would need to once again be aggressive with his legs and get that high rear leg lift. This will certainly make his bend at the waist much more smooth, rather being pulled down by his shoulder. In my opinion, he simply needs to get his weight transfer flowing smoothly right over and through his front side rather than his weight transferring into that front leg but not over it.
Unlike Pags, Piliere doesn’t see this as a major problem, and he even allows for the fact that the Yanks would prefer Hughes to stay in the lower 90s with better control. He also feels it is an imminently correctable delivery flaw stemming from Hughes’ hamstring injury. As the youngster grows more comfortable, I fully expect to see his delivery creep back up.
Finally, it’s worth noting something John Manual said in a Baseball America chat today. “Hughes threw in the 90-94 range consistently in the minors,” Manual said, “and it’s not really a matter of dispute. We wrote 91-95 in our ’07 Handbook, and that might have been a tick high, but he was 92-94 in our ’06 Handbook, and 90-94, touching 95 in our ’05 Handbook, coming out of high school.”
That’s basically what we’ve seen from Hughes. Pitchers who throw 94 don’t do so on every pitch; they generally sit around 91-92. This idea that Hughes ever threw 96 is a fallacy created by the hype. By the time the summer rolls around, Hughes will be right where he and the Yankees expect him to be. Hopefully, by then, we’ll look back on this debate and see it as much ado about nothing.